MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York

Is Bud Selig really prepared to act so decisively?


I’ll end my portion of the day with a Deep Thought of sorts. More of a pondering without a huge point. Just an observation and a musing. That musing: is Bud Selig really prepared to pull the trigger and suspend scores of players, some of them among the biggest names in the game?

This is not a musing borne of sharp skepticism, really. I certainly have my opinions — strong ones — about what Major League Baseball should or shouldn’t do. But I don’t have a strong view on what they will do. There’s just to much unknown right now to determine whether they act or they don’t, whether any suspensions they offer will take or they won’t.  We just don’t know.

But I have been watching Bud Selig for my entire adult life, and one thing that sort of puzzles me right now is how Bud Selig — late period Bud Selig — could act so decisively in an arena where he is bound to get a fight from the union.

If anything has characterized the latter years of Bud Selig’s reign it is his mastery of consensus. You may disagree with some things he has done as Commissioner, but tell me: what was the last thing he actually did where he had to engage in a public fight to do it? Dating back to the 1994-95 strike, I can’t think of one. He is a consensus-builder. He is a planner. He has not had an owners revolt of any kind in years. When someone wants into the club, he gets in. When Bud wants someone out, he’s kicked out. When new initiatives are launched they are launched with unanimous or near-unanimous consent of the owners and the suits in the league office and, increasingly in recent years, the union.  It may be tough going behind the scenes — I imagine Selig has twisted arms and called in favors like nobody’s business over the years — but when something finally gets done, it’s decided and it’s not controversial among the people who could make his life miserable over it (fans don’t always count, naturally).

So I look at the potential for Selig to suspend a zillion players, and the near-certainty that it will lead to a serious, hard core fight from the union, and it doesn’t add up.  Yes, Selig may want to protect his legacy as Major League Baseball’s Commissioner. But Selig’s legacy is not of a drug-free game. Far from it. It’s from operating the gears of the business like a well-oiled machine and never, ever, getting truly thrown into the mud.  Selig is a man who doesn’t like to look feckless or ridiculous. The last time he looked that way was that tied All-Star Game. He made damn sure THAT wasn’t going to happen again. And he did so by getting a silly rule passed about the All-Star Game counting. With very little opposition. That’s how he rolls.

We learned today that the suspensions are not nearly as imminent as ESPN’s report last night made them out to be. There is a timeline — all of June, really — during which baseball is going to assess its evidence and see what it has. And then, maybe, they’ll go after the players.  I can’t help but think that the ESPN report revealed an internal debate among baseball officials about how to act. On the one side some folks who would like to fire a missile at Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez and on the other some of the more Selig-like folk who, to quote a line about the Russians from “The Hunt For Red October” don’t take a dump without a plan.  And given how compromised Anthony Bosch is and how big the fight back from the players would be if suspensions were issued based on his word, suspending 20 or more guys at once is not much of a plan.

Maybe the pro-suspension forces are losing the debate and they got mad and leaked the discussions to ESPN? Maybe baseball really doesn’t know what to do and decided to float this out there to see how it is received? I really have no idea. But I am going to have to have someone explain to me why, after all of these years and after every minefield Bud Selig has successfully navigated, he would choose now to court such potential ugliness and uncertainty.

Bud Selig doesn’t fire before he aims. He fires after the condemned prisoner is standing six inches from him, bound at the wrists and well-aware of how sealed his fate truly is. We don’t have that situation with the Biogenesis stuff right now. And the fact that Selig may be willing to fire anyway is fascinating to me.

Playoff Reset: The Cards and Dodgers have their backs against the wall

Clayton Kershaw
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Historically speaking, the Cardinals and Dodgers are the class of the National League. A couple of organizations which have won a ton, have had a lot of classy alpha-types running their respective shows over the years, no shortage of glory, no shortage of history and enough evocative and grand footage in the can to make Ken Burns sepia with envy.

Meanwhile, the Cubs and Mets, while they’ve won some and have some wonderful history too, are far better known for their failures. For dubious achievements and fan bases which have, collectively, spent far more time smacking their own foreheads than high-fiving the guy in the seat next to them. Nevertheless, by the time we go to bed tonight it’s quite possible that the classy organizations with the long resumes of winning baseball will have been eliminated by the sad sacks and that we’re going to be treated to a Mets-Cubs NLCS.

In short: today’s NLDS contests are “the big game” sequences in any late-70s-mid-90s “slobs vs. snobs” comedy movie. Camp Mohawk vs. Camp Northstar. Lane Meyer vs. Roy Stalin skiing the K-12. Thornton Mellon vs. Chas in the diving meet. Once these things are over don’t be surprised to see someone on the Mets or Cubs kissing some girl way out of their league and to be asking yourself, “wait, why are there cheerleaders at a diving meet?”

Of course baseball isn’t as scripted as all of that and William Zabka is, according to IMDb, in pre-production on some Civil War project, so he can’t make it. I have no idea what that’s about. I can only assume he’s playing some stuck-up Confederate General who will lose to Curtis Armstrong’s disheveled Union general in The Big Battle, after which we cut to credits over some tossed-off Dave Edmunds song he wrote for the soundtrack just for the money.

Which is to say: we have to watch these games to see what happens:

The Game: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs
The Time: 4:37 p.m. ET
The Place: Wrigley Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: John Lackey vs. Jason Hammel
The Upshot: Wow, those were a lot of dingers given up by Michael Wacha and his friends last night, huh? The god news is that they’re running Lackey out there this afternoon and Lackey has owned the Cubs of late, going 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against them, including his gem in Game 1 on Friday night. The bad news: even a half dozen recent starts aren’t great predictively speaking, and Lackey is on short rest. TBS will show highlights of Lackey pitching on short rest in the 2002 World Series today, but think about what you were doing in 2002 and whether you’d be just as good at it today as then. Hammel has the ball for the Cubs. He has not fared well against the Cardinals this season (5.37 ERA) but the same small sample stuff applies.

Injuries could be a key consideration here, as Addison Russell may be on the shelf for the Cubs following his hamstring tweak in last night’s game. Likewise Yadier Molina left early, apparently having aggravated his thumb injury. Otherwise: wear a helmet if you’re in the Bleachers at Wrigley this afternoon. Balls may be flying out your way.

The Game: Los Angels Dodgers vs. New York Mets
The Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Citi Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw vs. Steven Matz
The Upshot: The Clayton Kershaw Legacy Game. It’s not fair to Kershaw that, after eight years of completely dominating Major League Baseball people will deem him worthy or unworthy of, well, whatever, based on his 10th postseason start, but they will. If he falters today on short rest, with no reliable bullpen to bail him out, people will call him some sort of choke artist. If he dominates he’ll be considered redeemed, though he’s never been a guy in need of redemption. I don’t care much for that game, but it’s inevitable it will be played so let’s just silently roll our eyes and go with it. The Mets may have a bigger question mark on the mound in Steven Matz, who hasn’t pitched in a couple of weeks thanks to a tweak in his back in the last week of the season.

This should feel like a totally different game. The Utley drama has to subside now, especially given that he’s unlikely to get the start against a tough lefty. And that tough lefty is, with all due respect, no Brett Anderson. You can bet against Clayton Kershaw and win, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d make a habit of.

In any event, the Cubs and Mets should play this on a loop in the Clubhouse before today’s games. Because . . . it just doesn’t matter!

Yoenis Cespedes and his bat flip say good morning

Yoenis Cespedes

It was a late night last night. Especially for old farts like me. I turned on my TV at 12:30 yesterday afternoon and there was baseball on it for just about 12 hours straight. Not too shabby unless you happen to root for the Astros, Rangers, Cardinals or Dodgers. Oh well, today is another day. Or tomorrow if today is a travel day.

In the meantime, we have Yoenis Cespedes to keep us happy, alert and occupied. Again, unless you’re a Dodgers fan. Of course, if you are a Dodgers fan you got absolutely no right to be upset at a bat flip following a homer. And if I catch you complaining, you’re getting a time out.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.